It might sound like a contradiction in terms, but the bold reserve of Kurdistan in northern Iraq has been showing.
Frankly, they haven’t been doing much. And that’s sorta the point.
Like, the very lion’s share of the very possibility of the mundane stems from the maintenance of a certain level of order and stability. Under trying circumstances, the opportunity simply to be bored can be a remarkable achievement.
And that’s the goal not just of Kurdistan, of northern Iraq, of Iraq, the Middle East, or even liberal democracies: To create the kind of order where that is possible.
Not to be bored, I mean. I’m talking about opportunity here.
Certainly, the goal is human flourishing. But mundanity is the flip side to that coin; each is only made possible by having in place a system that works—that even makes it possible—and a Hobbesian state of indeterminacy ain’t it.
So while there has been all sorts of interesting political machinations large and small going on that speak to an attempt at a healthy polity in northern Iraq, the best part has been watching the regular sorts of stuff they’ve actually come up with lately.
Recalling that foreign actors such as Turkey and Iran are actively trying to draw them into conflict, it’s been remarkable to see stuff like this.
They’re surrounded by Turkey who is still actively trying to kill all Kurds, Iran who wants to take over, political instability to the south within the state of Iraq of which they are still a part, and Syria which every flavor of ill-intent in the world seems determined to turn into a shit show, and they’re still focusing on things like drug rehab and art therapy.
I want to learn more of the history here.
So yeah, even though I know it’s not “the point” per se, but it feels like northern Iraq has been doing its darndest to show everyone in the region just how gosh darn normal they’ve been being in the midst of all this crap.
It doesn’t have to be an intentional attempt at being a beacon of liberal democracy and whatever that will become to the world. But if it works, it can’t help but be.
That’s just how it works.
Lord knows that’s what the people to their south want. And that’s why, while the images of people getting married or throwing back tear gas canisters at the kind of people who fire tear gas canisters at people are inspiring, no less inspiring, albeit more subtle, should be the stories of the protesters doing the plain, regular stuff that makes it all work.
Setting up institutions to support their new civil society, such as the tuk-tuk cabs to ferry out the wounded and the news paper that bears their name, for example.
Manning the barricades is obviously critical. Logisitics and support—technical and humane—are less glamorous but no less vital.
Stuff like this.
And perhaps less obviously, this.
And at this point, to anyone who understands the mission, it should be no surprise that our friends at Operation Inherent Resolve get in on the action whenever they can too.
So yeah, this is great stuff. A strong attempt at healthy politics. Wonderful policies to promote the public welfare. And just some basic good living stuff.
And it’s fantastic messaging, of course, to anyone who wonders if stuff like this is even possible anymore. Not the point, but as per above, it can’t help but be.
So yeah, great messaging. But this stuff cracked me up.
Wait, there’s more! There’s video!!
Ah yeah. That’s the stuff. That’s some good, healthy democracy problems right there.
Which is why I love that stuff. I remember when a friend of mine in college—student government president at the time—saw our dean of students at what some of us considered to be a misguided protest and asking him if he actually supported it.
He responded: I just like seeing people protest.
That’s always stuck with me. Even if it’s annoying at times, it’s at worst a symptom of good things. At others, it is something much more vital.
Which makes me think of the other attempts at a kind of “normalcy” under adverse conditions that is also inspiring, but also inspiring for its attempt to be business as usual.
That is to say, the resilience with which the people of the region, affected not just by this conflict but those that came before like the war on ISIS (as though that’s over), the Syrian civil war, the instability in Iraq, the Iraq War, coups, Iraq War I, the Iran-Iraq War—I get fuzzy on the history pretty quickly actually.
Anyway, the point isn’t to fight, it is to endure. And to endure in this sense is not only to survive, but to pursue a way of life—to insist on the need to flourish, even should the attempt fail.
There has been a great deal of that to see, to draw upon, and to take inspiration from. But it is important not to lose sight of the fact that the point is not just to live, but to live well.
And to do anything well requires practice, not to say, a practice.
Which I suppose is why this caught my attention and gave me pause to reflect.
It’s not just a religion; now it’s also a form of resistance. But it’s not conducted to resist.
It’s conducted for its own sake.
The two kinda become the same thing. But even still, resistance conducted for the sake of religion may be noble, but religion conducted for the sake of resistance will soon turn grotesque.
In that vein, there’s been a lot of celebration of the Yazidi lately. In large measure, this is due to the place their enslavement at the hands of ISIS holds in the war. But that place in history is itself a function of the Yazidi, as a people, being oppressed, slaughtered, and enslaved for just trying to do their thing.
We can use all sorts of weightier terms like, “to practice their religion,” or “to follow their way of life,” but sometimes I think that makes us lose sight of what we mean. As though someone needs a reason of great gravitas to try to rightly.
Though it is all that too.
And so they celebrate that stuff. But they also celebrate that fundamental point: The point that the Yazidi are still just doing their thing.
A thing they’ve been doing for a very long time.
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On the eve of a Yezidi (Ezidi) holiday that follows three days of fasting, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) promised on Thursday to work for the welfare of the Ezidis and continue attempts to rescue those that were kidnapped when the Islamic State took over territory populated by members of the religious community.
“I warmly congratulate our Ezidi brothers and sisters for the Ezidi fasting Eid, wishing to celebrate this day in a calm and joyful atmosphere,” said Prime Minister Masrour Barzani in a statement.
The holiday, known as Rozhen Eizidi, often occurs on different days of the year as it is calculated on the Ezidi calendar, which is nearly 7,000 years old.
The emergence of the Islamic State and its violent assault on Iraq’s Ezidi-majority city of Sinjar (Shingal) in August 2014 led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of members of the community and the killing of scores more, now recognized by the United Nations as an act of genocide.
Most of them fled to the Kurdistan Region while others resettled in neighboring countries or Western states.
Militants subjected women and girls to sexual slavery, kidnapped children, forced religious conversions, executed scores of men, and abused, sold, and trafficked women across areas they controlled in Iraq and Syria.
Before the 2014 attack, there were roughly 550,000 Ezidis in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq. As the militant group took over large swaths of territory in Iraq’s Nineveh province, 360,000 Ezidis escaped and found refuge elsewhere, according to the KRG’s Ezidi Rescue Office.
The autonomous Kurdish region has often been applauded for its religious tolerance and coexistence, considered a sanctuary for minority groups in Iraq and neighboring countries.
Barzani continued, “THe KRG will continue to serve our Ezidi brothers and sisters. Furthermore, we will carry out the task of working to ensure their rights under the slogan of religious and ethnic coexistence that the Kurdistan Region is privileged to be a part of.”
“We will do everything in our power to rescue kidnapped Ezidis and ensure a safe and honorable return for those who were displaced.”
One week ago, thousands of Ezidis who live at the Sardasht displacement camp on Mount Shingal have called for basic humanitarian aid as winter began taking its toll on residents.
The camp was constructed in 2014 with 2,300 tents. There are currently 14,300 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and victims who survived at the hands of the Islamic that live there.
“I plead with the government, the humanitarian community, and the relative sides to come to our aid,” an elderly man told Kurdistan 24. “We only request water, electricity, basic humanitarian aid, and a doctor.”
Editing by John J. Catherine
For anyone who’s watched the first season of Jack Ryan, early in the season, there’s a scene where the main bad guy is having dinner at his home in Idlib. A woman in a burka serves him his supper and withdraws. As she walks away, he says to the guy next to him that she’s not a bad cook for a Yazidi.
I didn’t get the reference the first time I watched it.
So it goes.
And so it does.
A statement from Yazda on the occasion of the Yazidi fasting days
This Monday, December 16th, 2019, Yazidis in various parts of the world will begin to observe the Rojit Ezi- a three day holy fast, followed by the fourth day of celebration. The Yazda family congratulates all the world’s Yezidis on this important religious occasion and prays that the fasting will be accepted to merit the end of this era of tragedy, suffering, and genocide that has been ongoing since August 2014.
During these auspicious days, we must show our solidarity with the victims of the Yazidi genocide and their families. In particular, we must keep in mind the 2,800 Yazidi women and children who remain missing despite the passage of over a years’ time since ISIS’s military defeat in Iraq and Syria.
We reiterate our call to all relevant authorities to make more efforts to return the kidnapped Yazidis to their families. We call on them to take any and all appropriate steps to ensure the safe return of the displaced Yazidis in IDP camps to their homes. This will require economic and security measures that include the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Yazidi areas and the provision of adequate security.
Furthermore, we call on the Iraqi authorities to provide just compensation to affected Yazidis for their losses, namely the psychological and material damages inflicted upon them in the course of the genocide. Additionally, to emphasize the importance of achieving justice, the perpetrators and collaborators of the genocide must be brought to justice in a court of law. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the international community to establish a special and neutral international court with the jurisdiction to prosecute the more than 20,000 ISIS militants and supporters currently detained in Iraq and Syria.
In these special days of fasting and observance, we once again pledge that Yazda will remain the cornerstone of the Yazidi cause, and will be first in line to support any persecuted minorities. We will continue to work on the various approaches that we started in 2014 to continue to inform the world about the Yazidi genocide and minority struggles, and to support the processes of justice both nationally and internationally. We will continue to advocate for the Yazidis and other at-risk minorities, and continue Yazda’s vital humanitarian projects, including the support of the victims and survivors of the genocide.
It bears noting that that last tweet came from someone who also tweeted this.
That’s the stuff.